Can a Cheap AR-15 Be Accurate? Lots of Pics

Oftentimes a friend will send me a note and say, “Have you ever thought about doing a test about this?” I get a lot of good ideas that way.

My buddy doc540 recently asked me, “How much accuracy should someone expect from a “cheap” AR-15 rifle set up?” That’s a great question.

We know that AR-15 rifles can be fine-tuned to be very accurate bench rest rifles. But what about an inexpensive out-of-the-box “stock” rifle? Turns out that doc540 had a new one for us to test.

Here’s what he bought:

It is an Anderson Manufacturing AM-15 rifle, marked “Multi Cal” indicating that it is to enable the end user to build it into any caliber wanted.. It had not been shot until today.


It had a collapsible stock.


It has the M-4 contour barrel.

And doc mounted a nice Mueller 10-25 scope on it for the experiment. He will not be leaving this scope on it and will probably put a red dot on it, but we wanted to see how accurate it was at 100 yards and the scope will help us to measure that.

The rifle, without scope, cost doc $465 out the door. That’s a pretty cheap AR-15 these days.

I loaded up some handloads that I have had good luck with. They are accurate in my rifles. That should remove the ammo question from the equation.


I started out by shooting a couple of groups with my bench rest rifle, a DPMS Sweet Sixteen that I have placed in the “One MOA All Day Long Contest” with and qualified. I know it will shoot.

Here I am on my rifle.


We shot the groups at 100 yards, which is further than many remember.


Here’s my 5 shot group for today.


It was windy, but I still managed to shoot a .62 MOA group. The ammo is good.

We took doc’s rifle and oiled up the bolt group to assure good functioning. Then we shot at a 25 yard target to get the scope zeroed in. I used IMI Ball ammo for the scope zeroing. It took a lot of adjustment to get it where I wanted the group to hit.

We then moved the target out to 100 yards and I got ready to shoot.


I loaded up with the handloads and shot two 5-shot groups.

Here they are, the first two 5-shot groups out of this new rifle.





As you can see, they were excellent, and averaged a remarkable .95 MOA.

Sometimes when I do these tests I get the results I expected before I started. Sometimes I get surprised. Today was a surprise.

I expected an “inexpensive, stock rifle” to shoot “OK” groups, but never expected less than one MOA out of it. I would have been very happy with a 2+ inch groups out of such a rifle.

It was windy and we shot several other kinds of store-bought ammo, and it shot “OK, but larger” groups with the non-handloads. Will this rifle “always” shoot into 1 MOA? I seriously doubt it. But it did so today.


1. The AR-15 system is well known as an “inherently accurate” system. Apparently this applies to inexpensive rifles also.

2. Is it possible to have a very accurate AR-15 that is not really expensive? It seems so.

3. Do you get something when you spend $2000 on a bench rest AR-15 rifle? Sure you do. Better barrels, better triggers, etc. will almost always make them shoot “better”. But even a cheap AR-15 can be a good shooter.

4. Will all cheap rifles shoot this good? I doubt it. But this one did and there is a lesson in that surprise.

You never know how well they will shoot until you test them.

And it’s fun to shoot stuff.

(A word of friendly warning………If anyone posts, “That is nothing, I have a rifle that will shoot one MOA all day long”, your name will be added to the “Wall of Claim” in the “One MOA All Day Long Contest”.)

10 Comments on Can a Cheap AR-15 Be Accurate? Lots of Pics

  1. I have a rifle that will shoot 1 MOA all day long, it’s a .22lr Anschutz Match 54. That said, I’m keen to put my S&W 15-22 to the test at 100 yards and see how it does with a few minor modifications.

  2. The fact that it shot that well with ammo optimized for another rifle is excellent. We’ve shot ladders for my son’s competition AR and found that very small differences in powder weight and to a smaller extent OAL can make a significant difference in consistency.

  3. Tcb tactical // January 5, 2016 at 11:49 pm // Reply

    Great article,im impressed,i knew Anderson was a good product but didnt expect that kind of accuracy.

  4. smiddywesson // January 8, 2016 at 6:17 pm // Reply

    I should think most guns, expensive or otherwise, exceed the skills of the average shooter in the accuracy department. The extra money for a better rifle helps more in the reliability department for these average shooters, especially when we consider they are the least likely to know how to improve their reliability.

  5. I have 6 guns that will shoot under one half MoA all day long and at least eight more that will shoot one MoA, if one of my friends who does not have Agent Orange induced spastic tremors shoots them with the right ammo. No pity desired, just bragging about 40 years worth of nice guns.

  6. What was the twist rate of the barrel?

  7. The best I can shoot is a 4 inch group at 110 yds with any one of 3 AR’s that I own from a rested position. They will some times open up to 6 inches too. My AR range from $500 to $1100. My scope is 9x. My ammo is usually Tulammo, but I also shoot Remington and Federal occasionally. The better ammo usually makes the group 1 inch smaller, but no more then that.

    I think this the equipment that most shooters have and can expect 4 to 6 inch groups if their fundamental are right and the cross hairs barely more when they dryfire.

  8. That looks like excellent results for a bone-stock low-end AR with a MILSPEC trigger. I personally prefer a lighter 2-stage, which is about 100 bucks more.

  9. Loneshooter // April 18, 2017 at 8:59 pm // Reply

    A real challenge I came across was 20 consecutive rounds @ 100 yds. @ 1 in. I tried this with a 45-70 period scoped sharps. So far I can’t get past 15 rnds

  10. I have a rifle that will shoot 5 MOA all day long. 😀 1943 Mosin Nagant

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